Netflix’s Love: A Chat with Co-Creator Lesley Arfin

Just in time for your bingeathon on Netflix’s latest, Love, we talk with co-creator Lesley Arfin on her honest new series.

Netflix’s newfound reputation for turning out hit after hit comes with heavy expectations. Love, a romantic comedy coming from Lesley Arfin, Paul Rust, and Judd Apatow, is another exceptionally strong addition to their library. The series is an incredibly authentic, modern look on dating while avoiding the usual trappings. It provides both sides of the experience to shocking detail as Gus (Paul Rust) and Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) try to navigate around the problems in their lives and initiate a dysfunctional romance. 

While you binge on the show this weekend, we touched base with series co-creator, Lesley Arfin, about love, gender, and the importance of texting (and everything in between). 

DEN OF GEEK: There is such a glut of romantic comedies out there, even on Netflix alone. What is this show doing different from the rest of them? Why is this one important? 

LESLEY ARFIN: Paul [Rust] and I, who are married now, we were asked to write something together a long time ago. But I had a question. I knew I loved Paul. I knew I wanted to marry him and have a family with him, and I wasn’t sure why, and I wasn’t sure how it [marriage] works! It’s not like I was struck by a bolt of lightning. It wasn’t some big romantic high where all the stars aligned for us. It didn’t say anything about it in my horroscope. I anything our astrological signs are notoriously bad for each other.

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But I thought, this is an interesting question that I have, and I talked to Paul about it. And any time I have a question I write my way through the answer. So Paul and I were discussing it, and I was like, “I know I love you. I know you love me,” but like, I never thought that I would get married. Let alone get married or go out with someone without cheating on them. And I’ve never cheated on Paul. And I was like, Why? What changed? What’s the difference? What is love really like after the honeymoon is over? After that romantic “let’s have sex every day for a month”. What does that look like, and why do we stay in it? Everything that we see, it’s all relationships. It’s all love. 

DEN OF GEEK: One of my favorite things about the series is that it presents itself as sort of this relationship Rashomon where neither Gus nor Mickey is the “right” one. Was it important to you to try to portray things neutrally, letting the audience’s own experiences inform who they favor?

LESLEY ARFIN: Absolutely! Like we never—I feel our writers’ room, and Paul and Judd—I believe we’re all on the same page. I have no intention of ever manipulating anybody to think that somebody is a villain or a hero because Gus and Mickey—like you said—neither is the “right” one. And to me that means that no one is the right one, and if no one is the right one then everyone is the right one. There are arranged marriages that work out really well. It doesn’t take magical stardust soulmate bullshit. It’s really just not up to us. It’s a willingness to be open-minded, and to me, I knew that I loved Paul not because he was so wonderful, but because of all of his flaws that made him so not wonderful and being able to accept him. And it’s a commitment to learn how to accept any future flaws. And I don’t think a hero or a villain—I don’t think anyone is one-sided like that.

DEN OF GEEK: There’s a real duality between everyone. It’s interesting—and maybe it’s even a gender thing, too—but from the start I was empathizing with Gus more, but by the end of the series I was absolutely Team Mickey. You do a good job of keeping this equilibrium going that just when one of them has power in the relationship it very quickly shifts to the other one.

LESLEY ARFIN: Yeah, that was really important to us. Not in terms of manipulating anybody, but we never wanted it to be the nerdy, nice white guy saving the crazy, druggy white girl from herself. We never wanted it to be, “Here’s the guy hero who’s going to save this girl.” We never wanted it to be Cinderella. I mean, from a female perspective that’s really important to me. I grew up watching romantic comedies. I wanted Pretty in Pink to happen to me in real life. I wanted The Breakfast Club. And I love those movies. And I love the idea of, “I’m a fucked up person but one day I’m going to meet the right guy who’s going to fix me and not make me crazy anymore.” But it’s like—No! That’s not the truth. There’s no guy coming in on a horse to save me from myself. There’s somebody who loves both parts of me. I’m like Mickey, and I get that she can be a huge pain in the ass, and I can be a huge pain in the ass. It definitely has its consequences, but at the same time it’s also gotten me to where I am today and I’m so grateful for all of it. And same with Paul!

All of Love’s first season is now available to stream on Netflix.

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We’ll have the full interview in next month’s TV IV podcast. For now, listen to the first episode here: